GUNNEDAH’S petition for a second rail overpass has been answered after $16 million was pledged to build it and concept options were called for this week.
The funding came as part of the state government’s $300 million ‘Bridges for the Bush’ State Infrastructure Strategy package released yesterday.
The government says the funding will improve road safety and freight productivity to 17 bridges in regional NSW over the next five years.
A further $10 million was also committed to replace the Tulludunna Bridge on the Kamilaroi Highway near Wee Waa.
Both North West projects are anticipated to provide better access for the 49,000 freight trucks estimated to use the bridges each year to service the region’s livestock, cotton and grain industries.
If all goes according to plan with the Gunnedah railway bridge’s tender process, the preferred concept option could be announced by July next year, with the overpass expected to be open to traffic by 2015.
The tender process was publicly opened at the beginning of the week by the Roads and Maritime Services (RMS), which has been working closely with the Gunnedah Shire Council to
develop the project since June.
Roads Minister Duncan Gay visited Gunnedah yesterday to make the announcement after previously pledging $600,000 to get the ball rolling on feasibility studies and planning.
Despite the tough economic times, Mr Gay said the government was determined to upgrade roads and bridges for country residents.
A previous study, commissioned by Gunnedah council and commissioned by GHD consultants, found congestion would worsen through Gunnedah if nothing was done to separate road and rail traffic.
Traffic modelling suggested trains would run through the town every 17 to 19 minutes, backing up traffic for miles and cutting the town in two. It concluded that the town would face “complete gridlock” if the overpass wasn’t built.
Newly elected Gunnedah mayor Owen Hasler said the new bridge would be a positive step in solving the gridlock issues.
Cr Hasler said the overpass would mean the region’s trucking industries would not have to wait for trains.
Tenders have now been invited from professional engineering services companies for the development of the concept options for the bridge.
Tenders close on October 24, with the successful engineering firms expected to be announced in November.
The construction work will eventually remove the only remaining higher mass limit deficient bridge – which provides a crossing for 45.5 tonne semi-trailers and 68 tonne B-doubles – on Abbott St along the Oxley Highway, which was built in 1941.